Sport / Rugby

Ross Roche
Senior sports writer
5 minute read
19 Oct 2021
11:48 am

URC first phase analysis: Part Two — Lions and Stormers

Ross Roche

We take a look at how the South Africans did in their first four games, overseas, in the new competition.

Lions prop Carlu Sadie, left, was one of his team's better players in the first four rounds of the URC. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile/Gallo Images

Following the first phase of the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers playing against European opposition in the new United Rugby Championship, The Citizen takes a look at how the teams performed in their first four games, all abroad.

In this, Part Two of Two, we look at the Lions and Stormers.

Lions

Positives

Despite losing three games in a row after starting their URC campaign with a bonus point win, the Lions will take positives from their decent showing against Glasgow Warriors and Ulster. There opening win was the perfect start to the competition, but after a dreadful showing against Scarlets they bounced back with much improved performances against Glasgow, who they could have beaten, and Ulster who are one of the top sides in the URC.

The Lions scrum was also a massive positive in all four of their games, firing on all cylinders and they will look to continue that dominance back home at Ellis Park.

Failures

The Lions defence was exposed massively against Zebre in the second half when the home team staged a remarkable comeback from 38-0 down to run in four tries and 26 unanswered points to make a game of it, before the Lions defence finally shored up in the final 10 minutes.

Against Scarlets the defence was again a big worry with Scarlets running in four tries, two of which started in their own half. Against Glasgow and Ulster the Lions defence did improve in leaps and bounds, however soft moments did see both teams break the initial line of defence a number of times, only for some top cover defence to stop them.

The Lions will need to fix those soft moments if they are to try and pick up a win during their two games back home.

Stand-out players

Lions prop Carlu Sadie put in some monstrous performances for his team over their four games, and despite the dearth of talent in the position, will have definitely put himself on the Springbok radar. Wing Rabz Maxwane was probably the teams most dangerous player during their European tour and his form will be important in getting the Lions some much needed tries in their two home games.

Captain Burger Odendaal has also been very solid over the competition so far and on loan lock Pieter Jansen van Vuuren was also impressing before injury cut his tour short.

What’s next?

With just one win from four and on a three match losing streak the Lions will be desperate to get back to winning ways and will get no better opportunity than in their first match on the Highveld against the Cardiff Blues.

Cardiff are definitely a mid table team in the URC, shown by their two wins and two losses so far, but are not to be taken lightly having beaten Connacht and the Sharks. However with home ground advantage at altitude the Lions should feel confident in claiming a much needed win. It will also be vitally important in giving them a confidence boost ahead of their second home game against Munster.

ALSO READ: Part One of the URC analysis – Bulls and Sharks

Stormers

Positives

The Stormers started their URC European tour on a low note, but steadily grew into the competition culminating in their first win of the tournament in their last game. It was a poor second half performance that led to them going down to Benetton in their opening game, but they improved markedly to give Munster a run for their money in their second match.

They built on that effort in the third and were perhaps unlucky to not walk away with a win against Edinburgh, having to settle for a draw, before everything came together against the Dragons in their final tour match to get the much needed win.

Failures

The Stormers discipline let them down on a number of occasions during their four games in Europe, giving their opposition easy entry into their half and 22m from penalties, which they then converted into points. Two yellow cards in the games against Munster and Dragons saw the Stormers punished with the opposition running in a number of points with the man advantage and that will be something they have to be aware of going forward.

The team also needs to make sure they continue to put in a full 80 minute performance as both of their losses on tour came from positions of dominance, with them leading Benetton 18-7 and Munster 15-0, before both teams stormed back to win.

Stand-out players

Stormers captain Salmaan Moerat made a stirring return to form after a freak career threatening neck injury had seen him miss over four months of action leading up to the URC. However he immediately made an impact for the Stormers on his return, getting better in each game culminating with him receiving his first Bok call-up for their end of year tour.

Warrick Gelant has been another injury plagued player who has returned to form and enjoyed a fantastic four game tour, with him picking up the man-of-the-match award against the Dragons and he can consider himself desperately unlucky not to get a call-up to the Boks for the end of year tour. Evan Roos also impressed massively for the Stormers from the back of the scrum, while new signing Manie Libbok eased into the flyhalf berth with no problem.

What’s next?

The Stormers have a fantastic opportunity to keep building on their performances and claim two bonus point wins in their home matches against Zebre and the Cardiff Blues. Zebre are the weakest team in the URC and the Stormers should have no problems in picking up a full house of points in their first match at the Cape Town Stadium against them.

Cardiff will be a trickier opposition, however if conditions are in their favour the Stormers attack should have more than enough firepower to overcome the challenge in the second match and walk away with a solid haul of 10 points, which will more than make up for them managing just seven in their four games in Europe.